back to article Man vindicated for videotaping his own traffic stop

Maryland state police were wrong to arrest and charge a man for taping his own traffic stop and posting it on YouTube, a judge ruled earlier this week. Motorcyclist Anthony Graber was charged with illegal wiretapping for recording plainclothes state trooper J.D. Uhler jumping from his unmarked sedan and drawing his gun -- and …

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nice result

why draw the gun at all? seems to be a bit premature. Still, try taping your traffic stop in the UK and you will be pulled up on "legitimate" terrorism charges.

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FAIL

The answer ...

... according to the DA, was that when the cop jumped out of the car, he saw the bike move, and considered that to be "threatening behaviour".

Seriously. The DA statement in on the tubes somewhere!

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Grenade

Uh, in all fairness...

...the trooper is a moron. So the guy is driving extremely dangerously. He got pulled over. Everything is good so far. Last time I checked, however, someone driving dangerously does not mean that they are a dangerous person once stopped. There is no call to draw your gun as soon as you exit your unmarked car.

Grenade, because it's the closest thing to a loaded gun.

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Jobs Horns

A child in Africa dies when you speed or pull wheelies.

"In fairness to trooper...."

Did you watch a different video?

a) There's no way in hell that cop car saw him pulling the wheelie

b) There's no way in hell the cop saw him going above 90mph.

c) Weaving? I never saw any weaving and in fairness to the rider, aside from using his mirrors he turned his head a lot to check blind spots. Maybe with the camera shaking about you thought it was weaving?

d) Did you see any flashing blue lights? Neither did I. Wouldn't you feel aggrieved if a random guy in an unmarked car cut in front of you, jumped out of his car and pulled a gun on you?

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Alert

I think

The author is mistakeing changing lanes and a little undertakeing, because people are sat in the fast lane, for weaving.

As for the jumping out of the car there is a good chance youd thing "fuck this I'm being robbed" and open the throttal. I hope the officer gets a good kicking from his boss for this because drawing a gun on a speeding biker, and then not making it clear you are police, and then trying to cover your ass. But given that someone tried to fight the case I bet he subject to nothing more than some bitter moaning in the staff room about how dumb the judge was.

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Bronze badge

How do you know what the cop saw?

The unmarked cop car that pulled over the biker was not the one in the central reservation so how can you possibly know what the unmarked one that pulled the biker over saw? In any case, there could easily be other unmarked cars in radio contact.

The biker is a moron. Most likely he'll kill himself pulling some stunt or other. Pulling wheelies topping 100 mph on a public highway is madness.

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Unhappy

a few points

The plain clothes cop may not have seen any speeding or wheelies but someone else clearly could have as the guy shows both of those illegal and not very bright activities taking place in his video...again, not very bright. Cops tend to have this amazing new invention called a radio in their cars. The unmarked car was probably just the nearest vehicle that was on his side of the road and could respond - especially likely since plain clothes can't usually be bothered with crappy driving offences. Yes he should have led with his badge not his gun but he does clearly identify himself as police within a very short time of exiting the vehicle and the gun is never pointed at the biker. You can't see it clearly on the video but his badge looks like it's clipped on his belt, somewhat obscured by his nice obvious "I am off duty" grey sweat top and he might actually have been under the impression the guy could see it.

So not much to complain about really as far as the bust is concerned. The part of the story that makes me sad - and that you need to pay attention to - isn't that a cop doing his job with at least some degree of care and attention made a few elementary errors, but rather that all police everywhere are now so damned unpleasant about being recorded just in case they do make simple mistakes and try to use the law wrongly to disrupt the lives of ordinary folk when they think they have been. I think they've become paranoid about "looking foolish" in the belief that it somehow diminishes their authority and that's not good for anyone. Since the cop in the video is in plain clothes, I would even have been prepared to accept it as mitigation for the later siezure of material that perhaps an undercover operation was at risk of compromise if the footage was shown - but that doesn't appear to be what they claimed in court.

Of course, maybe if cops weren't faced with dolts like this particular cheesehead behaving like infants and recording it so they can broadcast it to all their moron internet "friends", believing that because when they got caught a momentary error on the part of the cop could provide the loophole they need to get away with it, then they might be a little less paranoid and everyone else might not be faced with having cameras snatched from them in the street. So members of the public, please save the outrage for instances when cops actually are caught doing something appalling and cops, please stop thinking you're above scrutiny.

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Also

On that bike, at that speed, its not pulling a wheelie. Its front wheel lift. It happens if your not carefull on the throttal on litter bikes without a slipper clutch or anti wheelie.

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Welcome

The officers in the unmarked car was taking the law into his own hands

Even American police would never use an unmarked car like that in a high speed chase.

Too many officers get killed and injured in high speed chases in marked cars, to risk having an unmarked car give chase at such high speeds.

The police officer was risking third- party human life just as much as the motorcyclist.

This would particularly be the case on an freeway where there would be ample marked cars available.

I have little doubt this was a rouge officer taking the law into his own hands.

Additional proof of that is the ridiculous attempt to suppress civil rights by suppressing the video tape of what happened.

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did you even read the article?

You totally missed the point here, pal. The outrage is due to the man being charged on wiretapping charges for taping an officer in a public place.

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FAIL

@Steven Jones

Yup.

He probably saw him raping a kid.

Which would explain why he would need to pull a hand gun on a traffic offender.

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Anonymous Coward

I had that problem once - in London

About 10 years ago I rounded the Target roundabout (W London) in the evening, and I noticed this car keeping up with me. Assuming it was a cop I made damn sure I was below the posted limit, but when I turned off the car remained behind me, and the next turn still.

Now this was autumn, it was dark and the car was not very visible (you're looking into headlights), so in the end I decided better safe than something dodgy so I gunned it - at which point finally the blue lights came on.

In all fairness, they did back off when I told them how long I'd been observing them (motivating my sudden rocket launch), and tried to find faults with my bike instead - but missed the only thing they could have caught me on (non-spec exhausts, grin).

Would I do that again? Yup. As a motorcyclist you're exposed to every moron on the road.

I think the officer in the video was out of line. He should have signaled first he was the law - they all have a badge, so show it alongside the gun..

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Flame

No gun!

A traffic stop is not a situation where there is a "perceived threat to the officer". That cop should have kept his gun in its holster and just pulled his badge out.

Even if the guy on the bike had made a run for it there would be no justification to draw a firearm, the cop was way out of line.

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Huh?

1) Is a litter bike a HD or just a bike that parts fall off of?

2) A slipper clutch has nothing to do with being able to wheelie.

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Silver badge
FAIL

Slipper clutch?

Dude, you need to read some more books. Slipper clutches have *nothing* to do with preventing the front wheel lifting. Quite the opposite, they prevent the engine locking up the rear wheel when down-shifting too vigorously.

GJC

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Silver badge

Rouge Officer

The video doesn't show any evidence of rouge. A little eye-shadow, possibly, but on balance I think the officer's straight.

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Coat

Lance3

That should read a Litre bike ie bikes of 1000cc and over. Being as he is a 'Mercan' you have to cut the guy some slack as he's not going to be totally as au fait with the Metric system as your good self.

That said I rode an 1100cc bike for some years without experiencing this problem as I found out how to use a clutch properly. In fact very soon after doing exactly the same thing on a 125cc machine er about on hour one my CBT course. I guess he was referring to slipping the clutch -slipper clutch?

It's also worth remebering that in the states they have no equivalent system where learners are restricted to 125cc machine etc, For them 600cc is a little kids learner bike. No helmet laws...warm states...no rain.......drool....... I wish I could emigrate.

I'll get me leather jacket.

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Bronze badge

Traffic Stop/Exhibition of Speed/Lane Splitting/Noisey Bikes

Fortunately for the biker there were no simultaneous bank heists with reports of the robber fleeing by motorbike. Sometimes, some people become very unlucky in fitting the description of suspects just called in.

Had there been a robbery, the cop would be within reason to draw his firearm and take aim. Had the biker attempted to flee, and got shot, it would be lamentable after the fact, but it would probably and most likely be not held against the officer once (or if) all relevant radio and computer calls corroborated the officer's actions.

But, popping wheelies (by any biker) is not smart. The bike could spill or hit debris or maybe be tripped up by a skateboard skeeting out into the street. Bystanders could be maimed or killed. Motorists burning rubber in the parking lot ("exhibition of speed", IIRC) is a fineable offense, and the vehicle could be seized and impounded and the operator cited and arrested for reckless endangerment.

Lane-splitting is a peeve of mine. I cannot TELL you nowmany times noisey bikes have roared past me at high speed or between me and another car, transmitting heart-shocking blasts into me and the car. It's nerve-wracking to be surprised or caught off guard by one and not have reaction time to do much at all. Lane splitting (here in the USA) isn't generally illegal, but i find it dangerous to allow at just about any speed. An improperly exiting passenger on either side can suddenly open a door and pitch a biker over and cause serious injury or death to that rider. Serious property damage can occur, too. IF a motorcyclist is going to split lanes, it should be constrained to at-red-light situations, and not at motored speeds -- it should foot-assisted, to minimize damager to cars being contacted by handle bars and side boxes.

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this could have gone really badly

In states where concealed carry is legal, the cop's actions could have started a gun battle right there, with the rider legitimately feeling in fear of his life. Very stupid thing to do.

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Nope

I know what a liter bike is, I have several sitting in the garage right now. A few even have slipper clutches. You are wrong in what you think they are, but still much closer than the OP.

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FAIL

Badge not gun, badge not gun...

Seems to me the cop needs to practice the phrase "Badge not gun, badge not gun", especially when pulling a, erm, unarmed motorcyclist. I would have shat myself if I were the biker and a dick comes pointing a gun at me. I think my reaction would have been to ride off, although that might end up with a bullet in the back.

Are cops not trained in the US? Looks like they're just given a gun and told to follow their instincts.

Mind you, the biker's not blameless....speeding and wheeling ain't so clever, but videoing your offences just provides evidence to the police. (That's police clever enough to spot the cam and use it, not police so stupid they miss a helmet cam, and pull out guns before badges).

Ah, merkins. Nice to feel so superior so early on a Sunday morning.

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My reaction, when I saw the gun...

...I'd pop another wheelie and squash the fuc*ker - who I could reasonably assume was trying to rob me - like a bug.

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Doesn't matter, they'd fabricate enough evidence

for a death penalty.

But the cyclist could easily have killed the cop by mistake, trying to escape a robber attempt. But as I say, he'd then be looking at the death penalty because you can assume his video would have been destroyed.

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I remember a case a while back..

The cops burst into the wrong house - the one next door to the one they had a warrant for. Didn't identify themselves. Brandishing weapons. One of them got shot.

The property owner got treated like a cop killer. Which, to be fair he was - but who in hell would not fire on some group of lunatics bursting into your home at some ungodly hour brandishing weapons?

It did not turn out as serious as that other case for this motorist; but if someone pulls a gun out on an unarmed, non-confrontational person a good long while before announcing they're a cop; they should be charged as any other random person would. Five seconds sounds like nothing, but it could be an eternity to the person being threatened with their life.

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@AC

They go through a rigorous process:

"a women gets pulled over on her way to work . the cop asks the usual question why are you in such a hurry. the women replies that she is late for work and he cuts her off and says I suppose you have a really important job like a doctor where it a matter of life and death that you be there huh. the lady says no actually I am a asshole stretcher. the cop says an asshole stretcher what is that. she says it is where you start with one finger and then work in a second until you got your whole hand in there and then the other hand and you keep stretching until it is about six foot. the cop says well what do you do with a six foot asshole? the lady says give them a gun and badge and have them pull people over that are late for work"

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Anonymous Coward

Ha ha..

Very funny.

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Megaphone

Not quite on topic, but interesting I guess.

Funny story about something that's happening in Ireland right now.

At the Dunkettle Interchange, when approaching from Dublin side; there is a set of lights. What I've observed is that this can block up fairly heavily; sometimes so much that you could be waiting from a km away or more. Because the lights are on only 10-12 seconds, this can get busy! Usually it takes 5-8 minutes to get past if you're caught up so far back. No need to go into the emergency lane really even if you need the outer lane (if you ever travel this way you'll notice that the outer lane is always empty, it's used apparently by less than 10% of the total traffic that goes through the interchange.

There are about 7 times in the last few months I have noticed that it takes longer than 5-8 minutes to get past such a blockage; up to 40 minutes in 2 instances.

The question you should ask is, where are the Garda when this happens? Well they're there alright. Are they reducing traffic flow by directing traffic through the interchange? No. Are they cashing in on the problem to line their pockets with fines from motorists who take the emergency lane to get to the outer lane (which as I said is 90% of the time empty)? Yes indeed.

Can I add another joke? Usually a few days before the interchange gets Garda interest I've noticed the time that the light is green getting slowly shorter - from 10-12 seconds to clear the lane down to 1-2 seconds (yes I've timed it). Interesting huh?

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Interesting indeed..

...but it could be another case of "Children's Programming 101"

Consider. Lights are on both a timer, and a detector. If the timer's too short, there's not enough traffic to trigger the traffic detector's threshold-of-decision (relying on vehicle motion over the 'diamond-shaped' coils) by the lights. It's simply GOT to fail!!

IN Irving, TX, they don't seem to use sensors. I could be stuck at an interchange - no-one else around - for what must've been 3 minutes, while the gas-guzzling SUV that Nokia provided (for one person, FFS??) adds to global warming for no reason.

In Finland, if you drive at night and the light changes ahead of you, but you can see no-one, don't even bother slowing down. They'll be green for you before you get there (sensors usually a lot earlier than, say UK).

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WTF?

What possible excuse was there for drawing his gun?

Seems to me they tried to prosecute him because he exposed the shortcomings of one of their officers.

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Coat

I thought...

It was a scene from the latest Terminator movie.

I want your bike, your evacuated anus and another wheelie

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Coffee/keyboard

Gah!

I had a mouthful of coffee when I read that..

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Thumb Down

Wait, what...

So all you need is a car and a gun in the US (and ability to shout "state police") for people to believe you're a cop?

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Anonymous Coward

It gets better

There was some dickhead cops in my city that thought it was amusing to dress up cops as clowns and bears, give them a radar gun and pull people over for speeding. It appears the reasoning was generating publicity to raise awareness of the local speeding "problem"

They were not so amused when people went "WTF is that guy in a bear suit gesturing at me for?" and didn't pull over.

They were even less amused when the judge said "are you people CRAZY?" and awarded damages to everyone they charged with not stopping for an officer.

Cops around here are more fucktarded than you'd believe. Here's one where they knock on a guy's door in a REALLY high crime area at 3am, DON'T identify themselves, shine a blinding light in his face, and get shot: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/crime/os-knock-and-talk-procedures-20100922,0,7238973.story

Here's not one but TWO where the idiots put up speed cameras before it was legal:

http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2010-08-09/news/os-red-light-camera-lawsuit-20100809_1_attorney-jason-weisser-red-light-cameras-lasercraft

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-red-light-cameras-palm-coast-20101002,0,4194213.story

So you can see why people don't trust the local government...

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Grenade

Doesn't EVERYONE have a gun there?

Considering there are more guns than citizens in the USA I can imagine covering someone with a gun when you're on your own is probably standard until you've got an idea of whether they're going to kick off.

I'm sure if the judge thought the cop acted questionably at the time the author of the article would have mentioned it.

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which is why what the cop did was so stupid

Suppose you're coming off an off ramp and an average looking beat-up car cuts in front of you, and then an angy looking guy with a gun jumps out and starts running at you. I think the immediate conclusion a lot of people would draw is "holy shit, I'm going to be killed." Given that we do have a lot of people who carry guns specifically for self defense, the cop's aggressive behaviour could easily have gotten himself shot or escalated a routine traffic stop into a firefight for no good reason. Stupid stupid stupid.

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Unhappy

It's not the gun, it's the camera that got him upset ...

Police, patrolling on their own, frequently draw their weapons when it comes to stopping people, often at the end of a loudspeaker and locking their fingers behind their heads, lying on the ground, etc. in the US of A. The police often handcuff a topped person 'for their own safety' (the civilian's and not the Plod's).

I took up using a motorcycle in a very, very busy city of 12,000,000 people where the driving is simply atrocious about 5 years ago. When foreigners are involved in collisions they are invariably expected to pay irrespective of guilt, made more difficult as numerous 'witnesses' come forward to testify against the foreigner.

I fitted an Oregon Scientific waterproof minicam to my helmet, concealed in a moulded fibre glass 'lump' on my helmet; I have never been held responsible for payment of any damages by the police since using it. The traffic police love seeing my accident videos. On a few occasions I have been stopped for bribery collection, by police, for driving in a car lane as opposed to a motorcycle lane and on every occasion when the police became aware of the camera they have simply returned my money and said Go!

Seems that the Plod, in the West, think they have more rights and privileges than the public and whilst they can video anything with impunity, the Plod get very uptight when the public pulls a 'Rodney King' clip of taping the Plod doing illegal things.

I hope this motorcyclist does the 'American thing' and sues for wrongful arrest.

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Anonymous Coward

Yup

Only in the land of the free. But then, UK is being worse lately - throwing kids down stairs, stealing camera equipment from legitimate photographers, etc.

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@JaitcH

The arrest was hardly "wrongful" was it? (Although some of the Brits on here should remember undertaking is OK in the US, however the wheelie was definitely out of order). The cop behaved like a testosterone-fuelled dickhead (but that seems to be in the job description for coppers everywhere), but he wasn't wrong to stop him. The subsequent seizure is the real story and I'm glad to see the judge giving the cops a good kicking about it. We could do with some judges like that over this side of the pond.

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Silver badge

Undertaking...

...is not an offence in the UK either. Dangerous driving is and an office *may* decide that undertaking is dangerous.

Anyway...

The biker was a moron and deserves to lose their license (I say this as a fellow biker; although no doubt the usual suspects [e.g MCN] will use this as more "anti-motorcyclist" fodder). We need retards like that on the road like we need DVD-truckers.

The cop was totally unprofessional and deserves serious censure for his attitude and subsequent treatment of the biker. Good to see the judge sorting things out.

If any other bikers are reading this - wheelies are cool. So are stoppies/endos, standing on the seat etc. Really cool. I like a good stunt show, me. On a closed track. With barrier. And medical crew.

Save if for the appropriate place.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Undertaking...

...is classed as 'driving without due care and attention', which is an offence. It is only lawful to overtake in the two overtaking lanes provided.

It is, however, also classed as driving without due care and attention if you fail to move as far to the left as possible after overtaking. This should be treated more severely by the police in the UK as it is 'lane-hoggers' (either middle lane or outside lane) who create most of the traffic problems on our motorways and also drive other people into dangerous manoeuvres such as undertaking.

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FAIL

The raid on his house was BS ..

He did have a momentary lapse in judgment he forgot to immediately identify himself. As far as drawing his gun .. because he wasn't in uniform his draw would be slow and clumsy if needed his gun, so he chose to have his weapon in hand and safely pointed at the ground.

The problem is when they found him guilty of contempt of cop and decided to abuse their authority, raid his house, seize is property. All to send the message don't f**k with us were are above the law.

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Flame

Slow and clumsy ...?

I can tell you from experience that pulling a gun from a shoulder holster puts the gun on target faster than pulling from the standard issue hip holster.

Of course I wonder why the cop was pulling a gun for a traffic stop in the first place?

And lets not forget that why we are hearing about this is not because the biker was speeding, or even because the cop pulled his gun, it is because the DA tried to charge the biker with a felony for making the video of the cop acting like a Nazi public. If the biker had not posted the clip for all to see he would not have been charged with anything more than speeding.

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Big Brother

Not even that much dangerous driving

Most of the other vehicles were causing more danger to everyone than this motorcyclist. He is on a freeway, so there are no pedestrians, cyclists, equestrians etc. to look for.

By far and away the greatest danger was to himself. He took this into account - yes he undertook, yes he sped - but he was actually relatively restrained compared with many people I've seen on bikes and in cars in towns.

Even unmarked cars in the UK have blue lights so you know you're being pulled over - that or a badge being flashed out of the window. The first thing this guy does is brandish a weapon and yell "get off the motorcycle", twice - I'd be assuming that there was a robbery in progress!

If he'd gone for the police badge with the other hand then there'd have been a lot less of an issue for the motorcyclist to deal with.

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Anonymous Coward

Fight or flight time

Eeek watching that video, I'm with Andus's earlier comment, use the bike as a weapon. There is nothing to sugest the fella with a gun is a copper, and given an immediate threat to life situation like that, its fight or flight time boys and girls, fleeing's out of the question (he has a gun), so whats left?

I know it sounds stupid, but i'm sure plenty of us have been in similar situations, or seen it happen, when people get angry (most of the time, because they've done something stupid like pulling out in front of you, and getting miffed when you almost hit them) and decide to get out of their car, watching that video the first thought in my head was "sh!t, mr road rage has a gun"

Apart from the wheelie, I can't really see that the bike rider has done anything really wrong (is speeding in a straightline in good conditions really such a crime?), so yes I think an armed reception is certainly over the top.

I know the real story is his arrest for filming the copper, but just seeing the guy climing out of the car almost in slow mo, and drawing his gun, did send a shiver down my spine.

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Pint

Nice try!

But this link had me ROFL :-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Uy1FnUG3qg

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The cop should have been charged with something

The cop should have been charged with something, abuse of office, illegal use of a weapon, speeding (I didn't see a flashing light).

That the justice system lets justice system insiders escape without punishment is killing our society.

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Megaphone

slight corection

Its called the "Legal system" , not "justice system". At least by all the lawyers and cops I've known over the years.

Though they may have gotten more hypocritical in recent time. Its been awhile since I moved in those circles.

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Headmaster

Just a point about the 'weaving' thing..

I seem to remember (correct me if I'm wrong) that on a 'freeway' in the US, overtaking is allowed on any lane. So no 'undertaking' involved.

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Silver badge

Depends on state

Each state makes their own specific rules. Some allow passing on the right while others don't. Likewise some states define the left lanes as passing lanes and the right lanes as travel lanes so they can ticket you for either traveling in a passing lane, this is worded by some states as an ordinance to keep right unless actively passing. Mostly these are used to generate revenue when the roads are fairly empty as it basically gives a twofer when a car does pass on the right they both get tickets.

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Hmm, is it just me?

Am I the ONLY person that saw the entirely obvious and well-badged State Police patrol car pull in right behind the motorcycle? It was a Crown Vic, pretty easy to spot, with a nice big badge on it...and as SOON as the door of the Crown Vic opens, the first cop puts his gun away. Once, basically, he knew that someone had his back...you will of course notice that he never RAISES the gun and levels it at the cyclist, he just has it out and at the ready.

The other thing to consider - if the cop WAS off-duty when he made the stop, then it is very possible that he wasn't wearing a bulletproof vest. Now, in the US, where guns are like water, EVERY cop on duty wears a vest - and they save an awful lot of lives. But if the off-duty cop wasn't wearing one, reaching for his gun as he exited was probably a reflex action caused by having no vest - in short, if you have no defense then at least have your offense ready.

Cops get shot in traffic stops very frequently in the States...sometimes for an obvious reason (i.e., carrying drugs, or outstanding warrants for arrest), sometimes because the heavily armed and tanked on steroids driver just doesn't think the law applies to him. It's very, very easy to criticize from here in the UK, but UK police don't have to deal with the sea of licensed and unlicensed handguns that permeate the States - and we as UK citizens just don't have that much experience with it. Not saying it doesn't HAPPEN, but it's at least an order of magnitude less frequent.

I think the wiretapping charges were foolish, but I'm just not convinced the cop did anything all that wrong, or at least nothing that I myself might not do in that situation, lacking a vest and arresting an unpredictable, hyped-up motorcyclist...

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